From relegation fears to promotion hopefuls within six weeks. How 'shamed' Portsmouth transformed after Ipswich humiliation

Positioned in front of an empty Fratton End on a blustery Tuesday night, an emotional Cowley battled to cling onto composure.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 4:55 am

Addressing The News on camera during the aftershock of the Ipswich debacle, Pompey’s head coach retained his customary eloquence and manners.

Yet, occasionally, biting words escaped, the odd stinging barb flung in the direction of a failing team just humbled 4-0 on home territory.

This was no red-faced rant or fist-shaking diatribe, but the message was undeniable.

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A far cry from the evening of October 20, when successive hammerings had left the Blues nervously eyeing a relegation zone lying but four points away.

‘This is not a time for victims, you learn a lot about yourself in adversity,’ said Cowley at the time.

Ipswich celebrate their fourth goal - netted by Wes Burns - in their Fratton Park triumph just six weeks ago. Pompey are a different prospect now. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages

‘It’s elite sport, it doesn’t make character, I think it reveals character, particularly in difficult moments.

‘We have to decide what we stand for, who we want to be – and how we want to be perceived.’

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Cowley’s reeling squad subsequently chose their pathway. Today they are unrecognisable from the form they once took.

Pompey manager Danny Cowley applauds the fans at full-time following the 4-0 home humiliation to Ipswich in October. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages

Immense credit to the players for transforming their season having been rightly criticised for a string of limp performances criminally lacking heart and fight.

There was the blitz at Rotherham, conceding three goals in seven minutes, and the abject second-half capitulation against Ipswich which plummeted to fresh depths.

Or how about the home defeat to newly-promoted Cambridge United, while Sutton United triumphed 2-0 at Fratton Park in the Papa John’s Trophy to inflict further humiliation.

By mid-October, it appeared the season was descending towards a bleak existence residing far below even League One mediocrity.

Yet here we are.

Perhaps Ipswich may signify another Crewe sliding doors moment in the history of Pompey, albeit these are still early days to throw around such labels.

The facts are Cowley’s men have subsequently captured 17 points from a possible 21, conceded four goals, registered six clean sheets, and racked up three straight league away wins.

Even injuries, suspension and enforced system switches have failed to impact on such heartening progress.

After the Ipswich defeat, Cowley told The News: ‘It was unacceptable, we were shamed – and I will take complete responsibility for it.

‘Every single person within our group has the responsibility of going away, looking at themselves and seeing what more they can give to help this team.’

Well, they have given the team passion and heart – and presented the Fratton faithful with unexpected hope.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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